There was a time when Uzbekistan was the center of the world. The Silk Roads wove a dream of gold and azure to Samarkand, Bukhara, and Kokand. Camel caravans transported the riches of a gigantic continent to these magical cities at the crossroads between Persian, Arab, Mongolian, Turkish, and Chinese influence.
Here a thousand cultures have blossomed, and history has left its immense print. This is why Uzbekistan is, without a doubt, the most beautiful, the most spectacular of the countries of Central Asia.
Not sure what to see or where to start when you travel there? We can certainly help you out with that! Check out our 40 interesting and inspiring facts about Uzbekistan that will be sure to get your inner travel bug jumping.
10 Interesting Facts Related to Uzbek Food and Culture
- There is a formal etiquette for pouring tea in Uzbekistan: First, it is customary to rinse out your piala (a small tea bowl) with a drop of hot tea, then return a bowlful to the pot three times before the tea is finally considered fit to drink. It’s certainly a unique form of afternoon tea! Traditional local sweets are often served alongside this.
- Uzbek cuisine is heavily meat-based: Like many other Central Asian countries. They mainly use lamb meat so the dishes can be quite fatty. Bread is paramount to their meals and is never wasted!
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Uzbekistan is home to over five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This includes Itchan Kala, a resting point of over 250 hours. Bukhara, an ancient city that existed on the Silk Road. Samarkand is a crossroads of cultures. The historic center of Shakhisyabz, and most recently, Western Tien Shan, was listed in 2016.
- Corruption is a problem: Unfortunately, corruption is a problem in Uzbekistan. In fact, it is believed most revenues from key sectors in the economy such as gas and gold are shared amongst small cliques in society. As a result, the general population receives very few benefits.
- A country of many languages! Whilst the majority of citizens speak Uzbek, the official language of Uzbekistan. Russian is the second most spoken language. So it’s a great travel destination for those who have the Russian language in their portfolio!
- The food is eclectic: With a historical crossroad of many reigns from various cultures, the food reflects this! Its roots lie in Iranian, Arab, Russian, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. So it’s an exciting mix and sure to get your taste buds tantalizing!
- (plov or osh or palov, “pilaf”): Palov is the national dish in Uzbekistan. Want to know an interesting fact about Uzbekistan and its cuisine? This was invented by the cooks of Alexander the Great! It’s made up of mutton, rice, onions, and grated carrots. A feast for kings!
- Goodluck bread: The regional bread is called Lepioshka. An age-old tradition insists that it’s never laid upside down as this is said to bring bad luck. You shouldn’t place it on the ground either, even if it’s in a bag!
- Greeting étiquette: Handshakes are only acceptable terms of greetings for two men. An Uzbek woman is greeted by bowing with your right hand placed over your chest. It’s certainly a gracious greeting!
- Songs are part of the culture: An interesting fact about Uzbekistan is the importance of music and song in its culture. Household songs are called Koshuk. Lapar is a dialogue between two singers, these are often common in traditional weddings- it’s a beautiful moment!
10 Most Common Facts about Uzbekistan
- It’s a double landlocked country: Uzbekistan is a double-landlocked nation. Did you know only two other countries in the entire world share this unique geography? So if you want to reach the coastline, you’ll have to travel across at least two countries. That’s certainly an interesting fact about Uzbekistan!
Landlocked countries of the world are those countries whose borders are completely surrounded by different countries. In other world these countries have no access to open seas
- 56th largest country: Uzbekistan is the 56th largest independent state. It’s around the same size as Spain or the state of California for reference!
- A country of many sports! Uzbekistan is known for performing very highly in Olympic sports. Kurash is the native martial art form. But the most popular sports in Uzbekistan include football and tennis! A local game is a unique experience.
- Shortage of water: Being a double-landlocked country, an interesting fact about Uzbekistan that may come as no surprise is that they have a water shortage problem. They have an advanced underground water and reservoir system to control plant irrigation. It’s one of the most advanced in Central Asia!
- Local currency: The local currency is called SUM (UZS), and the coins are tiyin. Currency can only be exchanged in banks and is best to do as soon as you arrive. For example, $1 in the local currency is equivalent to approximately 3000UZS.
- Drinking-Water: Most locals drink boiled cold water from a tap. In some regions, it’s actually forbidden to drink tap water due to the increased salt concentration. It’s best to always keep bottled water with you or boil it before consumption.
- Internet and communication The quality of the internet is generally quite low in Uzbekistan. Whilst most hotels and city-based cafes have Wi-Fi, it’s generally quite weak or sometimes not even connected! So we’d suggest buying a local SIM from the two main operators Ucell and Unitell, if you’d like to stay connected.
- Souvenirs With a longstanding history relating to the pottery trade, it’s impossible to leave Uzbekistan without a souvenir! But an interesting fact about Uzbekistan is that you should always ask for the age of the antique before purchasing. This is because it’s actually forbidden to take souvenirs out of the country with an age of more than 50 years old!
- Friendly locals: Uzbeks are highly regarded for their hospitality and kindness. If you’re ever lost on the street, they’ll be more than happy to help you! An invitation to a local’s home is a wonderful sign of respect. The guest of the house is the most honorable and important person. You’ll be treated like royalty if you accept the invitation!
- Security Uzbekistan is considered to be the safest country in Central Asia. However, it’s best to follow general safety rules whilst traveling. Be mindful that this is a Muslim country too, with its own traditions, so this should be respected as you travel.
Travel: 10 Most Incredible Facts about Uzbekistan
- UZBEKISTAN IS A GREAT TRAIN COUNTRY: An interesting fact about Uzbekistan is that it is home to the biggest and most regal metro system in Central Asia. The stations feature marble ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, and detailed engravings. It’s certainly a wonderful commute for locals in the morning!
- MOST INTERNATIONAL VISITORS DON’T NEED A VISA: If you’re a passport holder of a CIS country (The Commonwealth of Independent States). Then you don’t need a visa to travel to Uzbekistan. You can check if you’re a member state here. You’ll have to fill in a passenger locator form upon entry if you’re traveling from outside these countries. It’s fairly straightforward and is to keep track of your whereabouts as you travel.
- You can find ATMs in every Uzbek city: Unfortunately, you cannot always get money out of them. ATMs can be empty, and some only accept Visa while others only accept Mastercard. Finding a full ATM that accepts your card can be a challenge. You’re best to exchange cash in banks or at the airport upon arrival.
- National Parks and Nature Reserves: Uzbekistan has two National Parks and over nine Nature Reserves. The oldest park is called Zaamin National Park, and it was established in 1926. So it’s fair to say there’s plenty of nature-based activities possible to explore on this island!
- Lots of activities for tourism: Uzbekistan is a great destination for tourist activities. There’s a variety of moments you can experience here, from camel trekking, hiking to bird watching. In winter, if you’re lucky, it’s even possible to go skiing!
- Conscious of fauna and flora: Protection of the natural fauna and flora is taken very seriously in Uzbekistan. One of our favorite places to visit is the Jeyran Ecological Center. It focuses on the reducing and restoring of endangered species. It’s possible to visit and support the project during your travels.
- Follow the rules as you travel: It’s important to note that rules are strictly enforced in Uzbekistan, so make sure you consider this as you travel. For example, it’s illegal to gamble, and if you are under 20, you should not have drugs, tobacco, or alcohol.
- Considerate with photography: Uzbekistan is one of the most stunning destinations to shoot on camera. But be aware that some photography can upset the authorities. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you can shoot a building or not, it’s always best to ask a staff member for permission first.
- Exploring the Silk Road: Many famous landmarks to visit in Uzbekistan relate to its historic position along the Silk Route. One of our favorites is a visit to the Kyzyl Kum desert (qizilqum desert), where you can stay in a traditional yurt camp. You’ll be exploring just as the Silk Road Merchants had many years ago!
- The perfect winter getaway: Whilst summers in Uzbekistan can be long and very hot, the winters here are fairly mild! So if you’re looking for a nice warming winter break to escape the colder seasons, then Uzbekistan is a great option!
10 Economy & History Facts about Uzbekistan
- The beautiful country is rich in gold: An interesting fact about Uzbekistan is that the country is quite literally rich in gold! For example, the Muruntau gold mine is one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world. The mine is located in Muruntau in the Kyzyl Kum desert and produces about 2 million ounces of gold every year.
- Leading Economic Activities: Want to know an interesting fact about the economy of Uzbekistan? It’s heavily reliant on cotton and other natural minerals like natural gas, gold, and uranium. The country has the world’s 4th largest gold deposits, which comes as no surprise based on the figures above!
- It was part of a powerful empire: Uzbekistan was once part of the Persian empire conquered by Alexander the Great. It’s an empire conquered by many parties, from Mongols in the 13th century to the Soviets in 1925. So the country is rich in history!
- Religious Impact: In the eighth century, Uzbekistan was invaded by Arabic forces who dominated the area. As a result, the Nomadic Turkish tribes were converted to Islam which is still very present and a big part of the culture in the country to this day.
- The longest reign: The longest reign lasted from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. This was when the Ghengis Khan and Mongols seized Uzbekistan from Seljuk Turks. The territory became part of the empire of Tamerlane and the Great.
- Most Populous Soviet Republic: We already told you an interesting fact about Uzbekistan as the previous Soviet Union. But did you know it has the highest population of all the five in Central Asia? Uzbekistan has over 34 million citizens, which is a huge increase compared to 2011, when the size was only 29 million.
- First Inhabitants: Iranian Nomads, also known as Scythians, were the first to inhabit Uzbekistan in Millenium BC. This reign was closely followed by the Fergana and Margiana inhabitants.
- Independence Uzbekistan gained its independence from the Soviet Republic in 1991. After the fall of the soviet union, it became a constitutional republic. The Republic of Uzbekistan was run by President Islam Karimov until 2016. Independence day falls on September 1st and is celebrated every year.
- A tortuous president: Uzbekistan’s reign post soviet rule was not an easy one. Unfortunately, Karimov was notorious for his severe breaches of basic human rights. Tortures, executions, and restrictions on freedom of speech were not uncommon during his reign in Uzbekistan. Thankfully, the political climate has much improved since then.
- History of the Silk Road: Uzbekistan was at the very heart of the Silk Road, the world’s superhighway that existed for many centuries. Most of the beautiful top sights you can find along the silk road are found in Uzbekistan. It’s certainly a highlight for anyone visiting!
- Uzbekistan is home to Hakim al Termizi (824 to 892AD). He was one of the most known Muslim scholars. In addition, a Sufi mystic and lawyer, Hakim al Termizi, was a reference in the Islamic culture. Actually, it is from him that the town, Termiz, takes its name.
Final thoughts about Uzbekistan
So now you’ve seen that Uzbekistan has an eclectic mix of exciting activities and cultural experiences ready to explore. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your Uzbekistan itinerary today! We really hope that these facts will inspire you to embark on your own Silk Road adventure! There truly is no place quite as enchanting as Uzbekistan!